Reading of the Week: Psychotherapy at a Distance; Also, Rakoff Remembered (Globe) and Horton on Her Brother (LA Times)

From the Editor

Mental health care has markedly changed since the pandemic began. What is the impact of COVID-19 on psychotherapy?

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. John C. Markowitz (of Columbia University) and his co-authors write about psychotherapy and virtual care. The paper reviews the literature and also considers practical considerations. They note: “Therapists should acknowledge the crisis, and perhaps that teletherapy is a limited substitute for more direct contact.”

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In the second selection, reporter Wency Leung writes about Dr. Vivian Rakoff, who died earlier this month. In the Globe obituary, Leung writes about his various roles, including as psychiatrist-in-chief of the Clarke Institute (now part of CAMH). “To the many he inspired, he is remembered for his extraordinary intellect, kindness, sense of wonder and the agility with which he wove together ideas from a vast range of disciplines, from classic literature and philosophy to politics and pop culture.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider an essay by Dr. Jillian Horton (of the University of Manitoba). In this LA Times essay, the internist writes about her brother and his mental illness, discussing the emotional and geographic distance of their relationship. “My brother died 40 years ago and he died in April.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Does COVID Affect Outcomes? Also, Depression & Behavioural Economics (JAMA Psych), and Crawford on Virtual Care (Walrus)

From the Editor

As we head into the second wave, are there lessons from the spring?

This week, we have three selections.

In the first, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr. Seung Won Lee (of the Sejong University College of Software Convergence) and co-authors look at mental illness and COVID-19 in South Korea. Doing a cohort study, drawing on national databases, they wonder about diagnosis and clinical outcomes for those with mental illness. “Diagnosis of a mental illness was not associated with increased likelihood of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.” It’s a big finding – but is it relevant on this side of the Pacific?

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Can we nudge patients with depression to take medications? In the second selection, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry research letter. Steven C. Marcus (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors offer financial incentives for medication compliance. They conclude: “In this pilot study, escalating incentives for daily antidepressant adherence significantly improved adherence compared with a control group during the critical first 6 weeks of treatment.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider an essay by Dr. Allison Crawford (of the University of Toronto) from The Walrus. She writes about the change in mental health care with COVID-19, as virtual care has become the norm. “I take off my shoes so that I can enter softly and with an open heart. My patients can’t see my bare feet.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Should Police Respond to Mental Health Crises? Also, Apps & College Students (Psych Services) and the Life of DJ Jaffe (NYT)

From the Editor

Another tragedy, another headline.

And there have been too many. The stories differ, but there is a common thread: mental illness and a crisis, a 911 call, death. Can we do better?

In the first selection, we consider a new essay by Dr. Sally Satel (of Yale University). Dr. Satel, a psychiatrist, notes recent tragic outcomes with mental health crises. “Nationwide, a person with a psychotic illness is 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than a person without such a condition.” She wonders about an alternative to police responses.

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In the second selection, we look at apps and college students. In a Psychiatric Services paper, Jennifer Melcher and John Torous (of Harvard Medical School) review the recommendations of mental health apps of several university counselling programs. They conclude: “the findings indicated that many counseling centers are suggesting apps that are inaccessible, outdated, potentially dangerous, and without research backing.”

Finally, in our third selection, we consider The New York Times obituary for D.J. Jaffe – the title is a good summary of his life: “Ad Man Turned Mental Health Crusader.” Jaffe, whose sister-in-law has major mental illness, was a strong advocate of various mental health causes, with his influence felt on state and national legislation.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Trends in Suicide Mortality in Canada (CJP); also, Suicide Prevention (Quick Takes) and Lawrence on Her Depression (Guardian)

From the Editor

Suicide is often discussed, but what do we know about the overall rate of completions? We hear that there are more suicides in the United States over the past few years – but was does the Canadian data say?

In the first selection, we consider a new paper by Mélanie Varin (of Indigenous Services Canada) and her co-authors. Drawing on a Canadian database, they consider suicide mortality. The good news: the suicide rate in Canada decreased by 24.0% between 1981 and 2017. But, in recent years, there hasn’t been a further decline.So – is the glass half full or half empty?

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In the second selection, we look further at suicide, considering a new podcast discussing suicide and suicide prevention. I talk with Dr. Juveria Zaheer (of the University of Toronto) about COVID-19, the literature, and, yes, her suggestions for clinical interviews. “If you have a room of one hundred people, one hundred people in that room have been affected by suicide.”

Dr. Rebecca Lawrence is a UK psychiatrist and we can assume that she has done many suicide risk assessments. In a Guardian essay – our third selection – she tells her story: as a person who struggled with mental illness, then made the decision to become a psychiatrist. “If my story helps anyone unsure of their capacity to take on the job, or worried about the ‘dark secret’ of their own psychological troubles, then I think it’s worth telling.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mental Illness (CJP)? Also, Cannabidiol for the Cannabis Use Disorder (Lancet Psych) & Love on the Police (Globe)

From the Editor

“Should I take cannabis for my mental illness?”

Our patients ask this question – in our EDs, inpatient wards, and outpatient clinics. We shouldn’t be surprised. Cannabis is now legal, and private industry pushes the medicinal benefits of cannabis. But what does the literature say?

This week, we have three selections.

The first is a new Canadian Psychiatric Association position statement that considers cannabis and mental illness. Dr. Philip G. Tibbo (of Dalhousie University) and his co-authors systematically reviewed the literature. They found 29 RCTs, including for anxiety and psychotic disorders. “Use of cannabis or a cannabinoid product should never delay (or replace) more evidence-based forms of treatment.”

marijuana-candy-sizedMany products, little evidence?

But is there emerging evidence for cannabis? Tom P. Freeman (of the University College London) and his co-authors did a phase 2a trial using CBD to address cannabis use disorder, which is written up in The Lancet Psychiatry. “In the first randomised clinical trial of cannabidiol for cannabis use disorder, cannabidiol 400 mg and 800 mg were safe and more efficacious than placebo at reducing cannabis use.”

Finally, on a pivot, in the third selection, we consider an essay from The Globe and Mail. Rebeccah Love writes about her own experiences with psychosis and her recovery. She also considers whether police should be involved in mental health crises. “The image of a police officer – often a big white man with a gun – is interpreted as a threat, an agent of death, an oppressor.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Apps for the Treatment of Depression (JAMA Psych)? Also, Cannabis & Driving (CJP); Oleynikova on Returning to School (Globe)

From the Editor

The world changed on March 11, the day that the pandemic was declared by the WHO. So did mental health care, with so many of our services becoming virtually delivered. But what’s effective and what should be incorporated into care moving forward?

This week, we have three selections.

The first is a new JAMA Psychiatry paper. With COVID-19, apps are becoming increasingly popular (one therapy app reports a 65% increase in clients over the spring). Can the apps be incorporated into primary care? Andrea K. Graham (of Northwestern University) and her co-authors do a RCT using apps for patients with depression and anxiety. They conclude: “In this trial, a mobile intervention app was effective for depression and anxiety among primary care patients.” But should we be so enthusiastic? And how could apps be used in care?

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Canada legalized cannabis for non-medical purposes in 2018. In a short research letter – our second selection – medical student Laura A. Rivera and Dr. Scott B. Patten (both of the University of Calgary) consider driving under the influence of cannabis, drawing on national survey data. “Public policy actions toward prevention of DUIC [driving under the influence of cannabis] appear necessary and will have the greatest impact if they are effective in the 15 to 24 age range and in males.”

Finally, in the third selection, we consider an essay from The Globe and Mail. Like many, Vera Oleynikova thinks about the return to school. She writes about her own experiences, noting a complication: she has struggled with depression. “To be sick for a long time and then to feel well again is a magical thing. You feel brand new and capable of anything. You marvel at your own capacity to do the things that for a long time were unavailable to you because of your illness. Which is why going back to school at 31 felt so right.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Perceived Helpfulness of Depression Treatment – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Friedman on Boredom & the Pandemic (NYT)

From the Editor

How helpful do people find treatment for depression?

This question is broad but new work (drawing on WHO surveys) ambitiously attempts to answer it across different countries, including some that are low income.

In the first selection, we consider a paper from JAMA Psychiatry. Meredith G. Harris (of The University of Queensland) and her co-authors report on WHO data. The good news? Many people do find treatment for depression helpful. The bad news? Many providers are needed for people to believe that they had received helpful treatment.

4anvfzqDepression treatment: helpful, like a lift from a friend?

In the second selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Richard A. Friedman (of Weill Cornell Medical College). Writing in The New York Times, he discusses the pandemic and the possibility of “a mental health epidemic of depression and anxiety.” Dr. Friedman argues that we are seeing mass boredom, not a rise in disorders like depression. While he can’t fully rule out that the pandemic will bring about an increase in mental health problems, he writes: “let’s not medicalize everyday stress.”

DG
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Reading of the Week: Burnout & North American Psychiatrists – the Big AJP Paper; Also, Satel on Kanye West’s Mental Illness (USA Today)

From the Editor

“Burnout is notoriously difficult to characterize.”

So comment the authors of a new American Journal of Psychiatry paper.

In recent years, we have been collectively speaking much more about physician burnout, but we often lack basic data. Using an online survey, Dr. Richard F. Summers (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors attempt to find out how common it is among North American psychiatrists. While there are many surveys of physicians, this one focuses on our specialty. What do they find? “Psychiatrists, like other physicians, have substantial burnout.”

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In the second selection, we look at a new essay by Dr. Sally Satel (of Yale University). Writing in USA Today, she discusses the presidential campaign of Kanye West and the unusual comments that he has made. “None of this is funny.” She notes that he has a history of mental illness, and wonders how journalists should have covered the story.

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Depression Outcomes: What Matters to Patients (Lancet Psych)? Also, NYT on Mental Health Apps and Startup Culture

From the Editor

“US Food and Drug Administration accepts only three outcome measures as primary endpoints in phase 3 studies to support an indication for major depressive disorder: the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, or the Children’s Depression Rating Scale.”

The editors of The Lancet Psychiatry make this point in in the August issue of that journal. Their concern: the FDA view is very narrow and confined to these three scales.

In the first selection, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. Dr. Astrid Chevance (of the Center for Epidemiology and Statistics Paris Sorbonne) and her co-authors consider depression outcomes. To understand different perspectives, they draw on three groups: providers, patients, and caregivers. For the record, the resulting paper is fascinating and includes outcome measures that aren’t captured by these three scales. We consider the paper and the editorial that runs with it.

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In the second selection – also on the topic of depression – Kashmir Hill and Aaron Krolik report for The New York Times on a popular therapy app. They note that Talkspace has good marketing and a growing client base. But should you recommend the app to your patients?

DG

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Reading of the Week: Is Yoga Useful for Depression (CJP)? Also, Women & COVID (JAMA) and Stergiopoulos on Masks & Medicine (UofTMed)

From the Editor

Complementary and alternative medicines are trendy – but are they helpful?

“Depressed patients… often perceive CAMs [complementary and alternative medicines] as safer, accessible, more tolerable, and easily acceptable compared to pharmaceuticals. It has been estimated that 10% to 30% of depressed patients use CAM therapies, often in tandem with conventional treatments and frequently without the knowledge of their physician. This percentage is even higher amongst those with bipolar disorder (up to 50%) and in clinic populations (up to 86%).”

So writes Dr. Arun V. Ravindran (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors in a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper. That study – our first selection this week –considers the use of one type of CAM: yoga. They find that it “may be helpful as an adjunctive intervention.”

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In the second selection, writing in JAMA, Dr. Linda Brubaker (of the University of California, San Diego) considers gender and roles in medicine. While she is careful not to over-generalize, she notes that: “As a group, women physicians spend proportionately more time on home and family care activities.” With the disruptions of COVID-19, she wonders what must be done to support all physicians. “Women and men physicians should be able to share the joy and the work of their lives equally.”

And, in the third selection, University of Toronto psychiatry resident Dr. Erene Stergiopoulos considers masks – and humility – in a time of COVID-19. In a personal essay that turns on a split-second decision, she notes: “These days it’s hard to remember a time before masks. And some days, it’s just as hard to imagine a future without them.”

DG

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